28 February 2007

Thinking Ahead to Mother's Day

Well, I finished up a little Mother's Day take-home project for the store today. As you can see by these pictures, I had some help with the photography. Look at that naughty white paw!

This book was made by hand using the Harmony line by Paper Salon. I've always loved the color and design of this line. Well, I love just about all of Paper Salon's lines, for that matter. The idea is to fill this little book with photos about what your mom means to you. It will function as both a Mother's Day card and gift.

I started with one sheet each of seven different double-sided patterned papers (which are more like cardstock) and cut them in 4x12 strips. Then I sliced off the short ends of each strip to create a staggered or graduated design, where each page is 1/2 inch shorter than the page next to it. I used the trusty Crop-a-Dile (love that thing) to punch two holes in the fold of each page, then tied them together with a ribbon. I used a set of Harmony tags and printed a poem to run throughout the booklet.

This was a fun project, and if I hadn't had a certain four-legged helper by my side (and on my lap) throughout the process, it would have been finished relatively quickly.

Wise, Old Owl

Last night at 10:30 pm, I had to make an unexpected trip to the store. Back at home, I set the bags down on the kitchen counter and happened to glance out the window to our backyard. It was dark outside, except for the reflection of the moon on the snow. From our window, I could see these two trees. The very top of the pine tree on the right caught my eye, as it appeared to be sticking up a bit more than usual. I looked more closely and suddenly noticed a wise, old owl perched on the very top. In the moonlight, I could see that his body was brownish gray and his breast was white. His head rotated side to side as he no doubt scouted for the rabbits that scurry around our backyard.

I called to
my husband to come see. At first, he thought I must be imagining things (which would not be that unusual for me), but he soon saw the owl, too. We ran upstairs to the bedroom window to get a closer look. With binoculars in hand, DH got an excellent view of Wise, Old Owl and estimated him to be nearly two feet high. But just as DH handed the binoculars to me, off he flew.

Of course, I don't know for sure what kind of owl he was, but based on where we live and what he looked like, I think he may have been a Great Gray Owl like the one pictured here.
I've often heard owls calling in our back yard at night, but I've never, ever seen one. I still can't believe how neat it was to spot this magnificent bird. Like seeing a whale in the ocean or a deer in a clearing, I consider it a privilege to get a glimpse of a world that is normally hidden to humans.

I told our daughter about Wise, Old Owl this morning as she was getting ready for school. "I'm going to wear my owl socks today," she said. And now we're going to be watching for him every night.

27 February 2007


The past weekend brought a powerful storm to our area, beginning with ice and ending with several inches of heavy, wet snow. But what a beautiful snow it was! There was no wind, and the snow clung to tree branches like a thick coating of powdered sugar.

Overnight, the neighborhood was transformed into a winter wonderland. The landscape was brilliant against the contrast of an intense blue sky. Icy jewels hung from the branches of trees. Pine boughs, heavily laden with snow, craned toward the ground. A lone rabbit scampered across the yard, no doubt wondering where to find her next meal. For a moment, our ordinary neighborhood was magical.

22 February 2007

Feline Friday: Casual Day

I don't know about your house, but around here, t-shirts are purr-fectly acceptable attire on Feline Fridays.

21 February 2007

Tales of Deception

I read an article in the paper yesterday about the history of McDonalds' Filet-o-Fish sandwiches. Reading about this sandwich reminded me of the Tale (perhaps I should say "Tail") of Deception that surrounded the Filet-o-Fish sandwich of my childhood.

Fish sandwiches were introduced at McDonalds when I was in elementary school. I was a picky eater and the Filet-o-Fish was one of the only sandwiches I liked. Back in those days, there were no special orders: You took the sandwich the way it was made, complete with tartar sauce and cheddar cheese. Yet as far as I knew, there was no cheese whatsoever on the Filet-o-Fish sandwich. I despised cheese of all kinds, especially cheddar cheese (still do, in fact). I never would have gone near a Filet-o-Fish had there been cheese on it.

One day when I was in third grade, the Tale of Deception came to light. My mother went to the hospital to have surgery and during her confinement, my grandma took me to McDonalds. I ordered my usual Filet-o-Fish and upon opening the wrapper, I was shocked to find it was coated with a slimy film of cheddar cheese. I still remember sitting in the back seat of Grandma's car, tearfully wondering when and why McDonalds had started putting cheese on the Filet-o-Fish sandwiches, which had been perfectly fine without it.

The truth, as confessed by my still hospital-bound mother, was this: Each time we went to McDonalds, she scraped off the cheese with the end of a plastic straw before giving me the sandwich. She had to be sly and quick about it, lest I see what was happening. My grandma hadn't been privy to the details of this secret operation and unknowingly handed me the sandwich intact.

The truth about Filet-o-Fish sandwiches was revealed to me that day, and somehow things between my parents and me were never quite the same.
Yet little did I know that this was not the end of it: I had been deceived about other dairy products as well.

After college, I moved to Chicago. Following my first grocery shopping trip, I phoned my parents in some distress because I could not find our hometown brand of sour cream. This was a puzzle to me, because I remembered that no matter where we had traveled in our pick-up camper during my childhood, from East Coast to West, my parents would stop at local grocery stores and purchase Anderson-Erickson Dairy products. No matter where we journeyed in our camper, the milk for my morning cereal came from an AE carton. To my knowledge, the entire nation enjoyed AE sour cream and cottage cheese, not to mention the myriad flavors of AE ice cream.

"Oh, dear. I think there is something we've forgotten to tell her," Mom whispered to Dad on the other end of the phone line. As a child, I was not only a picky eater but highly brand-sensitive as well. In an elaborate scheme to avoid confrontation with me on our summer vacations, they had taken empty AE containers around the country and covertly filled them with local products.

Now, I harbor no real ill-will against my parents for these Tales of Deception. But I have asked them to think -- think really hard -- and remember if there is anything else they've forgotten to tell me. Is there anything about the tree fairies that I should know? Or that special test they made me take in Kindergarten? What about the lost grey kitten? Or my third grade teacher? Or the place where I was born? And while we're at it, am I even who I think I am?

On my worst days, this childhood deception makes me wonder if all the things I believe to be true really are. On my best days, I just order the Chicken Selects instead.

19 February 2007


If you know me very well, the story that follows will not surprise you. If you know me only casually, you may very well distance yourself after reading this. If you know me only from my blog, you will most likely think that I'm not only weird, but foolhardy as well. I'm willing to risk these potential reactions, though, to tell this story.

A few days ago, I was driving to pick up my daughter at school when I spotted something gray and furry lying in the middle of a busy thoroughfare near our house. The roads were icy and snow-covered. Traffic was heavy. The wind was bitterly cold and the day was cloudy. Although it was hard to get a good look, it didn't appear to be a dead animal or a chunk of snow. It looked like a stuffed animal to me.

Most people would go on about their business and not think another thing about this. Not me. If it were indeed a stuffed animal, I could not bear the thought of it lying face down in the middle of a very busy street, feeling unloved and unwanted and facing near-certain squishing by the tires of some dirty SUV. I could not imagine how fearful that stuffed animal must be as it felt the "whoosh" of cars speeding by. Whatever it was, I could not leave it there.

By the time I could get back to the scene, it was 8:30 in the evening and pitch black outside. I drove slowly, expecting to find it smashed by the side of the road. Suddenly, my headlights caught it on a bridge that runs over a creek, lying precisely on the center line. "OK, that's doable," I thought. Just past the bridge, I pulled my car off the side of the road, turned on my hazard lights and got out. The wind was fierce. Traffic was heavy. Looking right and left, I plotted that I would run to the bridge, grab it, run back, put it into my car and drive home for inspection.

After several attempts, it became clear to me that I could not run quickly enough on the icy pavement to reach it without being hit by a car. Once on the bridge, there was no room to get out of the way of moving vehicles.
But I could tell from my position near the siderail that it was, in fact, a bear or an elephant, and it had not yet been run over. Clearly, time was of the essence, yet I could not do this job alone.

Undaunted (and in fact, now on a mission), I drove to Starbucks and picked up a couple of triple caramel lattes with whip and drizzle, heated to 170 degrees (our usual order). Back at home, I placed one in DH's hand and asked him to drive the car to the bridge because I had to rescue something in the middle of the road. We've been married a long time, so he knew that this was not an optional activity: He got in the car and drove. With him behind the wheel, I quickly hopped out the passenger door and grabbed hold of an ear. "It's an elephant!" I squealed. Who could have left it there? Was it flung from the window of a car? Should I post "Found: One Stuffed Elephant" signs on light poles and place a notice in the newspaper? DH was concerned about germs. "Do not bring that thing into the house!"

Back home in the garage, I turned on the light and could see that the elephant was in remarkably good shape, considering what it had been through. Because the roads were covered with ice and snow, there was not a speck of dirt on it. For several days, the elephant rode in the back seat of my car, warm and comfortable and cheerily visible in my rear view mirror. Over the weekend, he entered the laundry room where he has been treated with Febreeze. Slowly, he is making his way deeper into our house, where he will be given a new bow and perhaps undergo a sex change in order to go by the name, Ellie.

I can't say for certain, but I'm fairly sure that Ellie is going to like it here. Whatever life she had is in the past. She's in a much kinder and gentler place now.

16 February 2007

Kit Cat

With all due apologies to those who are taking my card class on Sunday, I confess that I had a little bit of unexpected help with the kits. I left all the stuff spread out on the kitchen table while I ran upstairs to print something off the computer. When I returned, there was a Kit Cat in the middle of it.

I do apologize in advance for any cat hair you may find on your Primas. Surely you'll agree that it's all good.

After all, just look at that face. Would you have the heart to tell Lily that she can't be a Kit Cat?

13 February 2007

Could this be a paying gig?

Last night, DH came home with a tiny, black t-shirt emblazoned with the logo for Crizal, a brand of anti-reflective lenses used in eyeglasses. The t-shirt was presumably meant for a promotional teddy bear that has yet to arrive in the mail. "Here. Dress your cat," he said flatly and with an appropriate degree of disinterest, handing me the shirt.

DD and I are always eager to dress cats, and in no time at all, Lily was sporting the Crizal t-shirt. "This shirt couldn't have been designed for a cat," reasoned DD earnestly. "Look at the sleeves. They're on the sides of the shirt. If this shirt were for a cat, the sleeves would be on the front." I had to agree with her: When the marketing people were sitting around the board room putting together this ad campaign, somehow I could not picture them saying, "Hey, let's make tiny promotional t-shirts for cats. That's sure to move a ton of product."

Anyway, a photo shoot ensued, with DH casually mentioning he'd try to get a shot with the logo in clear view
and send it off to the Crizal people.

"Pull the shirt down," he directed us. "It's riding up."

You've heard about those people who force their children to model or appear in television commercials, then lavishly live off the income. Do you think we could be headed down that path?

Crizal, we'll be waiting for your call.

11 February 2007

Great Backyard Bird Count: February 16-19

This morning on National Public Radio, I heard a piece about the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is an annual four-day effort to count birds across the continent. The purpose is to create a yearly snapshot for scientists about bird distribution and movement patterns. Over time, the data is analyzed to help scientists better understand migration patterns, disease, and how changes in climate may affect bird populations.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is science in action, and it would be fun and easy for us all to participate. If you have children, this would be great way to engage them in an interesting and meaningful nature activity. Over the past few winters, I have noticed that fewer sparrows and doves are coming to our backyard at this time of year. I wonder if what I've noticed is part of a more widespread trend or simply the work of our neighborhood outdoor cats. Participating in the bird count may give me some insight into this casual observation.

For complete information, go to the Great Backyard Bird Count website. Then between February 16 and 19, grab a field guide to birds and begin counting your feathered friends in your backyard or neighborhood. Submit your data as indicated on the website, and record it in a journal for yourself. Next year, see how your own findings change.

09 February 2007

Feline Friday: Lilyware, One More TIme

I know I'm repeating myself here, but there is something about Lily in this lidless, plastic container that I find absolutely adorable. I thought I'd be able to store files in it, but alas, Lilyware has only one use.

08 February 2007

How Lucky I Am!

My good friend, Sharon, surprised me this week with this little tin filled with a heart-shaped album. It had been a Brighton Jewelry tin, and she thought it would be just perfect for a little album, and I agree. What is amazing is how she traced and cut all the hearts to make the pages: There is one for each letter of the alphabet! She included an alphabet poem about friendship, with one decorated verse on each page. Each page is different, with ribbon, buttons, flowers, or brads embellishing the verse.
Sharon is a very special person I met through scrapbooking. If it weren't for this hobby, our paths would never have crossed. I feel incredibly blessed to have her in my life. It isn't easy for me to open up to people, but Sharon's kindness and willingness to accept me as I am have helped me do that. I'm very touched and honored that she would take the time to make this delightful little book for me, and every time I see it I will remember our friendship. How lucky I am!

06 February 2007

Two Peas Blog Challenge

Today's Two Peas Blog Challenge: List 10 things you own that are beautiful and that you just love. Hmmm....this is an interesting question. There are numerous objects around my house that have special meaning to me. If I were gone, they wouldn't mean much, if anything, to anyone else. I've always liked to pick up things when I travel, and I also like objects with a history or story. I could go on and on, but here are 10 of these objects, in no particular order:

1) My cuckoo clock from the Black Forest in Germany. I picked out a particularly beautiful one when I was living in France during college and visited Germany one week. I had it shipped back to the US, but to save on mailing costs, I decided that I'd carry the three VERY heavy weights back to France in my back pack. As you can imagine, that turned out to be a bad decision!

2) A blue/gray piece of pottery that I purchased at a craft fair in the suburbs of Paris one rainy afternoon.

3) The stately peach-colored lupins in my perennial garden. Lupins typically don't grow well where we live, so I've always been very happy that this plant has done so well. We'll see how it winters over, since I divided it last summer when I was putting in a new bed.

4) Our two kitties (although they probably own ME). I think all kitties are living works of art.

5) My piano. I have a black, satin-finish baby grand piano which was a gift from my parents. It's beautiful to look at, but even more beautiful to play.

6) Many, many antique dishes which belonged to my grandmother and her mother. I have dinner plates, a pitcher , a pink glass tray , a tiered dessert plate, goblets...you name it. As an only child, an only grandchild, and an only niece, I'm the lucky keeper of these treasures (with many more to come).

7) My Dickens Village. I have numerous buildings and accessories, most of which have been gifts from family members. The village is still on display and will stay up until next month, when I'll spend many hours packing it all away until next winter.

8) My scrapbooks. No, they're not all beautiful, but they are treasures to me. Real keepsakes that I hope someday my family will really appreciate. Not that they don't appreciate them now (they do)...but I hope they will grow more meaningful to them over time.

9) Numerous pieces of petit point needlepoint stitched by my aunt. Monuments of Paris, postage stamps, and other painstakingly-created pieces grace the walls of our house. Her work is absolutely amazing.

10) Lithophanes made by our former neighbor, Ruth Christian, who is no longer living. She was actually somewhat famous in her day for her incredibly detailed porcelain creations. I also have an unglazed porcelain raccoon, a holly-covered tea set, and an ornately decorated set of dessert plates and cups, all made from unglazed porcelain. If you've never seen a lithophane, click here to learn about them (choose "See the Magic"): What is a lithophane?

Each one of these treasures deserves a scrapbook page. It would be really good to make a mini-album with a photo and the story behind each one. Hmmm...that sounds like another project for the ever-growing list.

05 February 2007

Does this make me a bad cat mom?

I'll bet there are some people who think that Lily has surely settled down by now. She is, after all, 10 months old. Well, just in case you were one of those people, let me take the opportunity to adjust your thinking. Here's a rundown of our morning so far:

* She was released from solitary confinement in the basement storage room at 5:45 am, where DH had lovingly placed her two hours prior.
* She immediately began climbing the walls and door frames (imagine the sound of claws on paint and woodwork, then imagine the sound of DH).
* She chewed on the iron cord, while the iron was PLUGGED IN.
* While taking laundry out of the dryer, I stepped away for a moment and when I returned, she had curled up in the dryer on the clean clothes.
* She ate her breakfast and some of Tinsel's, then cried for breakfast five more times. She jumped on the counter and pushed her food container off onto the floor.
* She knocked over the wastebasket in DD's bathroom and began flinging the contents all over the floor in a mad search for Kleenexes to eat.
* She continued her carpet removal project at the foot of the stairway (at this rate, we won't have to pay to have it removed) and ate several carpet fibers.
* While in solitary confinement a few days ago, she must have found some fake food from DD's old kitchen play set. For the past week, every time I turn around, I find a piece of fake lettuce or a hamburger patty. This morning I found a slice of fake baloney at the foot of my bed. Nice.

My solution to this chaos? Video Catnip.
Does this make me a Bad Cat Mom?

02 February 2007

Feline Friday: Baby, It's Cold Outside

February, when the days of winter seem endless and no amount of wistful recollecting can bring back any air of summer. Shirley Jackson